Sunday, April 1, 2012

Bibliofile: Lewis Barnavelt Series

Per our usual means (stumbling upon), we recently came across a rather unique set of covers for the 12-book Lewis Barnavelt series. We’re not really sure the publisher or the format (for all we know these could be another slew of e-books...hooray) except they’re void of a lot of clutter. It’s a weird color scheme: titles labeled in light black on a dark black background with some sort of light black colored pictorial representation of something from the book. It’s sort of nice to see these – more so, to know they exist. After years of pen-and-ink hash marks and ornate color paintings, these simplistic two-tone covers are a refreshing back-to-basics approach that is both cute and clever.

Ouch. We said cute. Sorry 'bout that. Anyway...

Picking favorites was sort of weird for this series because it’s not so much a “favorite” as it is figuring out what the image is supposed to represent. For example, instead of the typical house you’d expect to see for Lewis’ initial outing or an obligatory timepiece, there is a clock key – one of these was uncovered from Jonathan’s house in a memorable scene late in the book. We thought the hedge maze layout from Pelly Barnavelt’s back yard (as explained in The Vengeance of the Witch-Finder) was nice albeit a bit clichéd (although it being rotated 25-to-30 degrees really boosts its aesthetic properties).

Were pineapples mentioned in The House Where Nobody Lived? We don’t remember; however, the fruit fits for a book about the Hawaii House. In some native cultures the pineapple symbolized hospitality (did the Keller family know this?). Rounding out the dozen black boxes is a stenciled number three. The glyph isn’t rotated like the hedge maze (damn!) but the fact it is a stenciled font gives it a world-weary appearance. Plus, it doesn’t come across as too typographically pretentious or anything (cast out thou comic sans). Apparently there isn’t a lot to do with The Sign of the Sinister Sorcerer. Maybe they could’ve done an elephant instead. (Does anyone get that? No? Hello...?)

As we said, these are nice breaths of fresh air in the realm of Bellairsian book covers. Yes, they’re cool (and we suppose the objects chosen were done so to prevent giving away too much for those who haven't read them yet...) but while we can hope for another round in the Johnny Dixon series (or Anthony Monday – remember him?) we doubt they surface.

We're posting the dirty dozen at the Forum.  Enjoy....

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